Print is Not Dead

Green PrintingThe Green movement is in full swing, and in most ways it’s a very good thing. Marketing hype issues aside, many have worried aloud about the future of the printed word/image. With digital alternatives becoming increasingly pervasive, and former print industry leaders abandoning the page in favor of the screen, what’s to become of our beloved magazines and photo albums?

Luckily, in amongst the world of digital photo frames and web based magazines, the paper industry is taking notice and finally stepping up to the plate. Recycled paper has been around for a while, but as with any buzzword, use of the word ‘recycled’ doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. It could be as little as 10% recycled material, added to the fact that the raw materials are such a small part of the whole picture.

The more clever and responsible paper companies are re-examining their manufacturing processes, from the collection of raw materials right through to the mill floor and who provides their electricity. They’re not focusing blindly on steps allowing them to use the word ‘recycled’ alone, but are taking larger scale steps to manage their overall carbon footprint and corporate contributions to (and subsequent limitation of) greenhouse gas emissions. The quantity and type of energy and chemicals used to manufacture the paper are also determining factors, and the end result is a much wider range of ecologically responsible choices for those of us in the business of designing materials for print.

But how do you know which option to choose? The Environmental Defense Fund is a good starting point. Their online paper calculator takes all of these issues into consideration, and compares the overall environmental impacts of a wide range of different papers across their full lifecycle. While they can’t possibly include all of the paper manufacturers at any one person’s disposal, they do paint a clear enough picture of the sort of questions you should be asking when in the position to choose your stock.

Carbon footprint at EDF is calculated by kg equivalent of C02/MT and broken down into four major impact factors:
• Extraction of Wood
• Transportation / Waste / Disposal
• Manufacturing Energy
• Fibre Procurement

They also provide specific paper comparisons to North American averages for both 100% recycled papers, and standard virgin papers.

You can check out the EDF Paper Calculator at

At minimum, you should be looking for paper that is 100% post-consumer fibre, processed chlorine free, and manufactured regionally using responsible energy. In Canada, look for the Environmental Choice and FSC certification badges.

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